During the 2016-17 school year, Upper School Math teacher Amy Smith was busy finding creative ways to teach her students math. This innovative approach to teaching earned her a $10,000 award by the Barrett Family Foundation.
The award was created as a vehicle to award outstanding math and science high school teachers from private and public schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties. Through this award, The Barrett Family Foundation proudly honors outstanding high school teachers who share their energy and enthusiasm for science or mathematics through creative and innovative methods. The award further seeks to recognize teachers who are utilizing methods to cultivate student interest and ability in these two fields.
In order to win the $10,000 prize, teachers were required to write a letter about themselves, as well as an essay describing their teaching philosophy and how they use technology in the classroom to further develop children’s interest in the subject and keep it new, timely, and exciting.
Ms. Smith chose to create a video to show how she incorporated technology and hands-on activities into her math lessons throughout the year. “The video took me a few months to create and includes a QR code scavenger hunt and equations on the tennis court. The goal of all of my classroom activities is to connect the math with what it is conceptually. It’s important to make it relatable.”
Check out the video below!
You may also be surprised to know that math does not come naturally to Ms. Smith.
“Math was not an easy subject to me growing up,” said Ms. Smith who earned her first bachelor’s degree in hospitality from the University of Central Florida. “But once I was working as a Food and Beverage Supervisor at The Hilton, I realized that hospitality was not the career I had imagined and I decided to go back to earn my bachelor’s in math from St. Petersburg College.”
Ms. Smith wanted to give back in a bigger way. She found that through her desire to understand math, she could inspire others who struggle in the subject. “When I was a student at Dixie Hollins high school in St. Petersburg, FL, I had one teacher, Mr. Sullivan, who took the extra time and helped me understand math,” said Ms. Smith. “This is my way to pay it forward.”
“I tell my students that with self-discipline and hard work anything possible,” explained Ms. Smith. “Trust me, math does not come easy to me and I spend a lot of time in the library watching YouTube how-to videos, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And I did!”
Ms. Smith is also currently in progress to earn her master’s degree in Mathematical Sciences from the University of West Florida. She said she will be using the $10,000 award to help pay for graduate school. “After I get my masters I may become an adjunct professor at a local college or university. I may even continue and get my doctorate.”
“Being an educator means finding a way to connect with all of your students to inspire them to achieve their goals in and outside of the classroom. Every student has different passions, different weaknesses, and different learning styles. As a teacher of a subject that most students find difficult, I make it my sole responsibility to show them how much I care about their success. The look of excitement in their eyes when they start making mathematical connections and applying their newly developed skills is a feeling I could never attain through any other career. It is a privilege to be an educator, and I am thankful I get the opportunity to be a part of so many student’s lives.”
Other Barrett Family Foundation recipients from Admiral Farragut Academy include:
- Amy Smith (2017)
- Stephen Mikell (2017)
- Rob Ewing, Aviation (2016)
- Sari Deitche, Science (2015)
- Thomas Ma, Mathematics (2014)